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Column: The Rich Irony of the Fall of a Louisiana State Sen. and His Ties to Bill Jefferson

Allan Lengel

Allan Lengel

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Sometimes public corruption — particularly in Louisiana  — has a way of making you snicker — at least for a moment.

The sentencing in U.S. District Court in New Orleans of ex-State Sen. Derrick Shepherd on Thursday to 37 months in prison for money laundering made me think of the rich irony of his downfall and his ties to disgraced ex-Congressman William Jefferson.

Back in October 2006, as a reporter for the Washington Post, I attended a candidate debate at the Omni Royal Orleans Hotel in the French Quarter in New Orleans  for the 2nd Congressional District where Rep. William Jefferson was making a bid for a 9th term.

At the time, Jefferson was under FBI investigation, but had yet to be indicted.

During the debate, which was attended by citizens and local and national media, the challengers kept taking shots at Jefferson, making references to his FBI investigation, implying his problems made it impossible for him to effectively represent the electorate in the fragile post-Katrina era.

Ex-Sen. Shepherd/senate photo

Ex-Sen. Shepherd/senate photo

One of those challengers happened to be Sen. Shepherd.

At one point, Jefferson could take  no more. He started attacking the integrity of the challengers and when he got to Shepherd, he strongly hinted of an ethical breach, saying:  “I will not say what we have to talk about there. But if pushed I will.”

Jefferson went on to beat Shepherd in the primary and eventually won re-election. (Jefferson lost a bid for a 10th term.)

And two years later, in 2008,  Shepherd pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering after helping previously convicted bond broker Gwendolyn Moyo launder $141,000 from the sale of bogus bonds, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune.  Shepherd kept nearly half the money.

Interestingly, the indictment said Jefferson had steered Shepherd to Moyo after he lost in the 2006 primary to Jefferson. (Jefferson was not charged in that case).

And just as interesting, after Shepherd lost in the 2006 primary, he decided to endorse Jefferson in the main election, the guy he had previously declared was crooked and couldn’t be effective as a Congressman while under FBI investigation.

Interesting how all that works.

As we know, Jefferson was eventually indicted and convicted last Fall of  multiple public corruption counts stemming from many crooked business dealings over the years. He was sentenced to 13 years in prison. He is free pending his appeal.

Hopefully, Jefferson and Shepherd will get the opportunity to spend some quality time together behind bars.

I’m sure they’ll  be able to appreciate the rich irony of it all.


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